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Logan Paul’s YouTube Suspension And The Unwritten Rule of the Internet

In the aftermath of his apology tour for the video he uploaded featuring the body of a suicide victim in Japan’s Aokigahara forest, Logan Paul was immediately back on his bullshit. He dipped his toe back into the waters of the internet with a now-deleted tweet saying he’d eat a Tide Pod for every retweet he got.

He then took a shot at a petition to have his YouTube channel deleted. Which is serious business, we all know how everyone absolutely takes internet petitions seriously.

So here’s the part where Logan Paul was back on his bullshit; he uploaded a video of himself firing a taser at a dead rat. YouTube responded by suspending monetization on his channel and adding an age-restriction to it, which will probably hurt him when monetization is turned back on because the people who like Logan Paul are 12 at the oldest.

But you know what, I don’t care about Logan Paul. He’s a dumbass, he’s famous for being a dumbass and having a dumbass brother, and he’s dumbassed his way into internet stardom. What interests me about this story is the statement YouTube gave Variety on the incident.

“After careful consideration, we have decided to temporarily suspend ads on Logan Paul’s YouTube channels. This is not a decision we made lightly; however, we believe he has exhibited a pattern of behavior in his videos that makes his channel not only unsuitable for advertisers, but also potentially damaging to the broader creator community.”

YouTube has basically just said that Logan Paul committed the worst crime possible in their eyes, the crime of bringing YouTube bad press. It is an increasingly common occurrence for internet platforms, the large central hubs through which we conduct most of our daily lives and run our businesses, like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Reddit, to react slowly to any sort of problem on their network until something brings them bad press, at which point they massively overreact and all sorts of unrelated things get caught up in the wake of the scandal.

For example, Twitter has long been criticized because it allegedly allows harassment, along with calls from people to get rid of protected speech they don’t like, such as neo-Nazis. When SNL actress Leslie Jones went on a bunch of TV shows to talk about how Twitter didn’t do anything when she was harassed by far-right provocative and air-headed bimbo Milo Yiannopoulos, Twitter finally took a stance against harassment by banning anyone who said a swear word in a tweet directed to a verified user. After a white supremacist murdered a protester in Charlottesville last year, Twitter similarly sprung into action by banning left-wing weird Twitter personality Todd Hitler and verifying Jack Posobiec, a racist crazy person.

The unwritten rule of the internet is that you have total creative freedom right up until you bring bad press to a multinational corporation, at which point they will squash you like a bug under their heel, despite the fact that they’ve profited off of your labor far more than you have. Without content creators, YouTube has nothing to monetize. They don’t create content, they just have a large enough server to allow anyone to create content for them, which they then insert ads into and share the profits with creators. Creators came for the promise of artistic freedom, which YouTube grants them right up until the point that advertisers or media sites grumble about it. I say this not to defend Logan Paul, but keep in mind that his video featuring the suicide victim was promoted by YouTube who took no action against Paul until it became clear the backlash wasn’t just going to blow over.

You could have seen a similar situation play out this week if you were on Reddit. I’ve been following the FakeApp phenomenon, mainly for work but partially because I think it’s an extremely cool piece of tech and the reactions to it are absolutely hilarious. People started acting like this app, which anyone with millions of dollars and access to a Hollywood production team has had for years but is now in the hands of the general public for free, was going to signal the end of the world.

The bad press got to be too much for Reddit, and the site added faked images to its definition of involuntary pornography in order to ban the /r/deepfakes subreddit where people were using FakeApp to replace the faces of pornographic actresses with celebrities in addition to inserting Nicholas Cage into places he doesn’t belong: actual good movies. They also, after many people asked about it, banned the subreddit /r/CelebFakes, a subreddit that had existed for seven years where people used Photoshop to create fake pictures of celebrities naked and /r/dopplebangher, a subreddit that I’ve found references to dating back to 2013 where Redditors would look for porn stars who looked like other people.

I’m not going to comment on the morality of these activities, because I don’t really care about them. The interesting thing to me is that these platforms obviously have no inherent moral objection to these sorts of activities, but they do care about the implication to their bottom line. As more and more of our commerce and communication depends on services provided by large platforms such as these, our world is becoming increasingly like a 1980’s cyberpunk novel where the worst crime is cutting into the profits of a mega-corporation.

We can celebrate that YouTube took action against Logan Paul because Logan Paul is a douche and we hate him. But the line he crossed didn’t actually exist until after he crossed it, because the only way to know you’ve crossed the line is when media organizations start writing about how YouTube needs to do something. The promise of the internet was increased freedom and more choices, the democratization of entertainment and commerce. But at the moment, we’re handing even more control over what we’re allowed to say and watch to larger and larger corporations who stand for nothing but increased profits.

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